Archive for October, 2012

by R. D. Finch

With the possible exception of Alfred Hitchcock, no film director made as many great movies as Ingmar Bergman. And no director in movie history has more of a reputation for seriousness than Ingmar Bergman. Marital strife, parent-child conflict, childhood trauma, identity confusion, spiritual crisis, madness, war, above all death—think of a somber, disturbing, or depressing subject and chances are Bergman made a movie about it. Yet among all those serious films he is so well known for, in 1955 he made one of the most delightful romantic comedies ever filmed, Smiles of a Summer Night.

In Sweden, the time around the summer solstice, when it stays light nearly all night long as it does in all such northern latitudes, is a special time of year. This is a time for the celebration of fertility and the time when magic is believed to have its greatest power over humans, just as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the film, which takes place sometime early in the twentieth century, we are introduced to four men and four women who come together at a rustic weekend house party in midsummer, a traditional time for losing one’s inhibitions and indulging in emotionally risky behavior. Fredrik Egerman is a self-centered middle-aged lawyer who for two years has been married to Anne, a naive 19-year old. The marriage has never been consummated because of Anne’s fear of sex, and Fredrik, who has resolved to wait until she is ready for sexual relations, is growing restive. When he learns that his former mistress, the actress Desirée Armfeldt, is in town appearing in a play, he can’t resist going to see her. Accidentally learning of her husband’s renewed interest in Desirée, Anne understandable becomes deeply upset. (more…)


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Copyright © 2012 by James Clark

For a film as steeped as it is in gore and spectacular violence, Reservoir Dogs (1992) rather strangely, it seems, treats the wide-eyed viewer, as very much also a listener, to a profusion of loaded and intertwined terminology (with associative and equally elusive visual imagery) elucidating the catchy commotion. Its post-literacy market may settle for finding out how the mayhem culminates; but another, more rigorous avenue obtains here, notwithstanding its being deserted.

On the supplement to the DVD of Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino cues up a run-through about film figures who are important to him. Then, irrepressible and infectious comedian that he is, he proceeds to trash such names as Jean-Luc Godard and John Woo. “I’m beyond them now…” Conspicuously absent, of course, is the real deal here, Robert Bresson—no laughing matter to be sure, but dear to our comedian’s heart, nevertheless. Before getting into our take of the film’s intro as embracing King Arthur’s Roundtable as engaged by Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac (1974), let’s take a listen and a look to the young auteur’s GPS as pointing straight at Balthazar at Risk. There is a flashback to one of a group of men intent upon someone else’s diamonds (or Holy Grail). This figure petitions a crime executive and old friend for the means to get set up in a respectable job to satisfy the demanding boss of the halfway house he’s entangled in, as not fully released from a stint in prison. The former authority figure conjures the priest who sponsors Gerard’s rehab in Balthazar. His feminine son (who knows just the easy touch of a job to do the trick) brings forward the baker’s wife. Cutting back to the main narrative, where the petitioner gets on with the blood bath Arnaud prevented Gerard from visiting upon the donkey, there is a blackened screen and a dead-voiced stoner-DJ, introducing Bresson’s beast of burden, who gets briefly mixed up in show biz and therein also encounters a simpatico elephant. “This is K-Billy Radio, with more Super Sounds of the 70’s… And if you’re the twelfth caller you win two tickets to the Monster Truck Extravaganza being held tonight at the Carson Fairgrounds, featuring Big Daddy Don Beaudine’s truck, the Behemoth.” (more…)

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by R. D. Finch

What the hell do you write about a movie directed by Luis Buñuel?  His films don’t deal directly with social, political, or ethical issues, so a discussion of theme isn’t really relevant. Even on the rare occasions he worked with major stars like Simone Signoret or Catherine Deneuve, he used actors essentially as extensions of his imagination, so a discussion of personalities and performances doesn’t hold much promise either. Also out is the topic of style. Though admired by bold film stylists like Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell, Buñuel was himself one of the most straightforward of directors, his style virtually a definition of the expression “invisible technique.” Yet he was in a way the ultimate auteur director, forging a creative identity not through subject or style, but by vividly showing us his own wholly idiosyncratic view of the world, his personal alternate reality, in one film after another. While other directors have also attempted this, I can’t think of one who has used this approach so prolifically, so adroitly, or so intelligibly as Buñuel.

Like a number of Buñuel’s later films, his 1972 comic masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is organized not around a traditional rising and falling arc of action but, like a piece of music, around a theme and a set of variations. Here the theme is six people—three men and three women—trying to sit down for a meal and repeatedly getting interrupted before they can get started. The variations consist of their trying time after time to dine, only to be thwarted again. No matter what the circumstances, they just can’t seem to finish a meal. It’s perpetually delayed gratification, the gastronomic equivalent of involuntary coitus interruptus. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1977 102m) DVD1/2

Anyone for Demis Roussos?

Margaret Matheson  d/w  Mike Leigh  play  Mike Leigh  art  Kenneth Sharp

Alison Steadman (Beverly), Janine Duvitski (Angela), Tim Stern (Laurence), John Salthouse (Tony) Harriet Reynolds (Sue),

Remember when you were a kid and one of your parents dragged you off to visit some elderly or distant relative you’d never heard of and forced you to sit there for hours before taking your leave?  Or the weekend trips to see grandparents and the endless periods of fidgeting and being told to sit still while you endured the torture on the sofa and just wanted to get home to finish whatever game you happened to be playing before you were so unceremoniously dragged from your room?  Well, imagine that discomfort, multiply it by the square of infinity and you still haven’t got within light years of the discomfort of Mike Leigh’s seminal work.  Some films are to be watched and savoured, while others are to be endured. (more…)

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by Judy Geater

It was a film made at a Poverty Row studio, in just four weeks and on a shoestring. Clark Gable was forced to star in it as a punishment, according to some accounts, and turned up drunk and angry to meet director Frank Capra. At the end of filming, Claudette Colbert said “I just finished the worst picture in the world.” Yet, somehow, It Happened One Night, the tale of a runaway heiress who joins forces with an unemployed journalist on a long-distance bus trip, ended up as a smash hit and multi-Oscar winner. It touched a nerve in the Great Depression – and still does so now, in our own hard times nearly 80 years on. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen during a rerelease in the UK two years ago, and the audience’s reaction showed just how well this early screwball tale of a couple travelling on a late-night bus has worn.

The legend has it that Capra came across the original short story, Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams, by chance in a copy of Cosmopolitan. He asked Columbia to buy it for him, which the studio managed to do cheaply, and he and writer Robert Riskin then set about turning it into a script. However, they quickly found that nobody had much faith in the project. Robert Montgomery was originally offered the part of the hero, down-at-heel, hard-drinking journalist Peter Warne, but turned it down because he felt there had already been ‘too many bus pictures’. Gable was loaned by MGM in his place, possibly as a punishment – he had recently been ill and taken time off, which didn’t go down well in that high-pressure era, as well as asking for more money. The role of the heroine, spoilt Ellen “Ellie” Andrews, was rejected by Miriam Hopkins, Myrna Loy and Margaret Sullavan in turn. Constance Bennett, Bette Davis and Carole Lombard were also suggested and then fell by the wayside for various reasons. Colbert only accepted the part at the last minute, in return for a bumper pay cheque and the promise of a quick shoot. (more…)

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Lucille Juliano and sister Elaine Lampmann flank Rutgers University freshman Eric Lampmann, a saxophonist and music major in front of Nicholas Music Center on Douglas campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey

by Sam Juliano

Gifted Rutgers University music major and saxophonist, freshman Eric Lampmann performed in concert at the Nicholas Music Center of the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center at the Douglas College campus on Thursday evening.  The young Lampmann, 18,  played with the prestigious Rutgers Symphony Band, led by conductor Darryl J. Bott during the second half of a program in which the ensemble was paired with the Ridgewood Concert Band.  Eric is the third of three children -all boys- born to James Lampmann and Elaine Lampmann of Butler.  His older brothers James Jr. and Craig, ages 21 and 19, respectively, are presently working towards degrees in communication and civil engineering at Hofstra and the University of Maryland.  (As a remarkable side note James was seen on national television last week as he helped to set up the sound and video for the Obama-Romney presidential debate at the David Mack Arena on the Hofstra campus in Hempstead, Long Island)  The Rutgers’ Symphony Band’s membership is drawn primarily from the finest undergraduate instrumental music majors at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.  Included in the program was a stirring performance of Ronald LoPresti’s “Elegy for a Young American” which was dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated the year before the work’s initial appearance.  The solemn composition,  largely fueled by the woodwinds, exudes a melancholic underpinning, and unfolds in the form of an adagio.  The longest piece in the line-up was Symphony No. 3 “JFK” written by Andrew Boysten Jr.,  which is likened to an interdisciplinary study in how music formulates connections to historical events in a literal and programmatic fashion.  The movement is meant to simulate the continuity of a memorial service, and contains four moving memories from JFK’s life: the war hero events on ‘P.T. 109.’ the famed inaugural speech that began with “Ask not what your country…”, the assassination on November 22, 1963, and the wrenching image of young John-John saluting his father’s progression as it moves by, an image that broke the hearts of  a nation and the world.  Eric Lampmann was one of the seven sax players, who gave this concert a distinct woodwind flavor and soaring lyricism.  Lucille’s sister Elaine and her husand James live in a specious home in a rural cul-de-sac in Butler, New Jersey, which has been the location of Thanksgiving dinners for all of us for every one of the past 17 years.  As the hosts of well-attended Christmas parties and owners of a dream home, the Lampmanns are about the classiest of acts.  Watching Eric perform was quite the exhilarating experience. (more…)

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This piece was originally posted in 2009 for Allan Fish’s 1960s countdown. It is being re-posted tonight, along with an embedded video of the short film itself, to encourage readers who haven’t seen or even heard of the film before to watch one of the cinema’s great masterpieces. Please vote for it in this week’s “Alternate Oscars” ballot for 1963. The headline and this intro are mine. – Joel Bocko (a/k/a MovieMan0283)

by Allan Fish

(Iran 1963 22m) DVD1

Aka. Khaneh siah ast

I have become the pelican of the desert

p  Forough Farrokhzad  d/w  Forough Farrokhzad

When discussing the great women directors of world cinema, Forough Farrokhzad is not generally one of the first names to be produced from the hat.  Those with a sense of history may note Lois Weber, Dorothy Arzner, even one-time actresses Ida Lupino and Mai Zetterling.  There was Larisa Shepitko, Julia Solntseva and Agnès Varda (though all three of those had arguably more famous director husbands) and then later we had Jane Campion, Lina Wertmuller, Catherine Breillat, Agnès Jaoui, Claire Denis, Sofia Coppola and, most precociously and most appropriately of all given the selection, there’s Samira Makhmalbaf, of whom much may still come.  Farrokhzad had one thing in common with Shepitko, and a tragic connection it was; they both died in car crashes before their time.  Farrokhzad even more so, she was only 32 when she perished.  She made The House is Black inside of a fortnight when she was 27.  She was a poet and a great one, arguably the greatest Iranian poet of the 20th century and one of the greatest of the century full stop.  It may be her only film, but it’s enough to name her a great filmmaker.            (more…)

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OK, results for 1962, let’s get it over with…

Best Picture Lawrence of Arabia, UK/US (7 votes)

Best Director Luis Buñuel, The Exterminating Angel & David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia (4 votes each TIE)

Best Actor James Mason, Lolita (6 votes)

Best Actress Bette Davis, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (6 votes)

Best Supp Actor Peter Sellers, Lolita (9 votes)

Best Supp Actress Angela Lansbury The Manchurian Candidate (11 votes)

Best Cinematography Frederick A.Young, Lawrence of Arabia (16 votes)

Best Score Maurice Jarre, Lawrence of Arabia (8 votes)

Best Short La Jétée, France, Chris Marker (11 votes)

My votes will no longer be listed here, only on the topbar as they don’t really belong.


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By Bob Clark

Over the course of this current election cycle in the United States, among the more sobering realizations of the current state and trends in American politics has been the slow, unwavering death of the usefulness and relevancy posed by the classic party convention. It had seemed almost a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney would win the nomination of the GOP, with practically a dozen potential rivals ranging from the relative moderate of John Huntsman to the absolutely nuts like Herman Cain all being marched out at some point or another as alternate choices, each an electoral sacrificial lamb before the official candidacy could be fully anointed and legitimized. This all occurred during a premature primary season that stretched on for months, or even seemingly years following the election of Barack Obama, whose own road through the nomination process in the Democratic party had encountered all its most serious obstacles during the ’08 primary season. Political conventions have been more a matter of ceremony and fluff for seemingly decades now, the last time any serious challenge was posed to a candidate being Ted Kennedy’s abortive run at the Democratic 1980 nomination at the height of Carter’s slump. One need only look at the acclaimed Altman & Trudeau collaboration of Tanner 88 and its docu-drama look at a fictional Presidential candidate to understand just how thoroughly determinative the nomination process has become, and how useless the conventions– Dukakis’ eventual nomination seems so inevitable even as early as New Hampshire, it barely makes a difference to add a fictional politician running as competition. Why not? He has just as much chance as most of the bums.

So how exactly did the convention process become so mechanical, so rote and perfunctory? Why is it that the most electrifying moment in a convention from the past ten years has been the moment that Barack Obama surprised delegates with his impassioned speech during the ’04 Democratic ceremonies that were supposed to have been Kerry’s, instead of anything from one of his own in ’08 or this year? Though the answer can be delivered in long or short form, the prevailing reason surrounds the fact of mass-media’s acceleration in the past 30 years, revving up news-cycles to last 24 hours and 7 days a week in order to meet the increasing demand of cable-news channels like CNN, commentary from talk-radio and the unending stream of information drifting in both officially and off any kind of record via the internet. With news coming in from and often through online sources there’s less of a censoring process, more of a chance for gaffes and horrifying embarrassments to leak through the system and catch politicians unaware, often ending candidacies that might’ve never been impeded back during the more relative decorum of old-school journalism. Coverage is constant, and as a means to differentiate and influence the tides we’ve seen the development of more and more bias from media sources like Fox News and MSNBC, helping to turn the already frenetic crossfire of American political discourse into a shooting war, instead of the mere shooting gallery it could be before. Even anchors on traditional networks have seen their influence and positions rise from merely reporting the news to lending an even greater importance and scrutiny to which news they ought report. Dan Rather’s fall from CBS after playing it fast and loose with damning charges towards then President Bush may have underlined to many the danger that anchors can put themselves in for not being careful enough with the facts, but also showcases the potential power of influence that’s been built up behind desks like his. Why else be so afraid of it? (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1973 1,352m) DVD1


p  Jeremy Isaacs  d  Peter Batty, David Elstein, Phillip Whitehead, Michael Darlow  w  Peter Batty, Neal Ascherson, Charles Bloomberg, Courtney Brown, Angus Calder, Charles Douglas Home, David Elstein, Stuart Hood, Jerome Kuehl, Jeremy Isaacs, J.P.W.Mallalieu, Laurence Thompson, David Wheeler, John Williams  m  Carl Davis  narrated by  Laurence Olivier

The title of the last of this monumental factual series’ twenty-six episodes is as good a tagline to use as any.  Series such as this are all about remembering, acting as testimony.  Testimony to what had happened, testimony to uncover the truth, testimony even to the talents of the people who made it.  When the series finished its run, thirty years after the end of the conflict it covered, it was an astonishing coup.  It was compared to the dimly recalled BBC masterpiece of a decade previously, The Great War.  That somehow had needed to be done in the days of black and white, whereas Jeremy Isaacs’ baby used colour where possible.  From every critical pulpit, praise was unanimous, but another three decades on, does it remain so? (more…)

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